This past weekend I completed my first Ironman, racing Lake Placid. Exactly one year before the race I raced my last race of 2008 and scheduled surgery on my achillies. With no training from the end of July to the end of December, racing and Ironman in 2009 was nowhere on my radar. I even thought racing ½ Ironmans in 2009 would be a challenge. After racing well for the beginning of the season my coach Kurt Perham mentioned in early July that I should race Lake Placid. I had only been training 8-12 hours a week and I had not ridden over 60 miles in the past two year so I was very hesitant. We put together two long brick workouts and if they both went well I would sign up. One went well but the other one did not go well at all, but I signed up anyway.
At Lake Placid I rented a house about 1 mile from the start of the race. Staying at the house was my wife (Megan), two sons, (Jack 2 ½ and Hunter 15 months), both my parents, my mother in-law, my uncle and my coach, Kurt. It was a full house! After driving the course the day before race I thought that I was making a huge mistake trying to race an Ironman while only training 10 hours a week. What was I thinking! The weather was forecasted to be showers with occasionally thunderstorms which would have been perfect. On race morning I was more nervous than any race I have been in for a long time. Normally I knew what to expect during the race, this time I had no idea what laid ahead of me.
The pros get to start 10 minutes ahead of the age-groupers which was nice because I didn’t have to try and swim with 2300 other people around. The gun went off and it was still one of the roughest swim starts I have been in and there were only about 50 pros at the start. About 100 meters in I went to look up and the girl next to me clocks me right in the temple knocking my goggles off. I quickly reseal my goggles and kept swimming hard. My goal was to try and be with the second group of swimmers. After about 5-10 minutes I settled in behind some feet. About 15 minutes into the swim I looked up and saw that the leaders were not too far up which was good and I was in a group of 4 other people. I went through the first loop in 26:20, which I was very surprised by. I jumped back into the water for the second loop. The pace seemed to slow significantly. Halfway through the second lap I tried to read my watch to see what pace I was swimming but couldn’t read the numbers. I was convinced that I would probably come out of the water somewhere between 60 and 65 minutes. I got out of the water and the clock read 55:21. Very surprising! I ran down the street heading for my bike. I looked back and did not see the group I came out of the water with. I then realized that it was because they stopped at the wetsuit strippers, which I probably should have.
I grabbed my Jamis Xenith T2 and headed out on the bike course in 5th place in the men’s pro division. I tried to settle into my pace but had a tough time with other guys flying by me on the bike. By the time I descend the large hill about 15 miles into the bike I was in 11th place. The sun started to come out and it was really getting warm on the bike. Not what I had planned on at all. The first loop of the bike was pretty uneventful. I stayed right on my goal watts number for the 1st loop. I complete the first loop in 2:25. Starting the second loop I began to realize that holding 250 watts for the next 56 miles was not going to happen. Just after I passed the aid station at the beginning of Haselton Road I looked down and realized that I did not have any fluids left. I got to the turn around, about 7 miles, and was dying of thirst and needed food. With no fluid I was not going to try and take any gels because I wasn’t sure I would be able to swallow the gel. I finally got to the end of Haselton and grabbed a water and Gatorade. I proceed to drink nearly a whole Gatorade going through the aid station. At this point I had about 60 minutes left on the bike. I had no energy at this point and was struggling to ride 200 watts. My back was cramping and I was having trouble breathing and staying in the aerobars. This was my biggest fear that I would crack during the last hour of the bike. At this point my nutrition plan went out the window and I tried to eat my way back to T2. I made the turn onto Highway 86 and had only 13 miles to the finish. The only problem was that it was all up hill. On the first hill after the turn onto HWY 86 I passed Petr Vabrousek, Paul Fritzsche and Tereza Macel, shortly after I passed Zach Ruble. Zach proceeded to ride really tough and hung with me to the last climb, called Papa Bear or something. (I was cursing all the bears the whole way up HWY 86!) . Just before we entered town Mac Brown came charging by both Zach and I. I enter T2 in 6th. I had the 7th fastest bike out of the male pros with a time of 5:03:42.
I came into T2 put on my Newton running shoes and headed out on the run. I had a very fast T2 (3rd fastest overall!) and was starting the run in 5th place. I heard that I was 11 minutes behind 2nd and 7 minutes behind 3rd and 4th. I tried to settle into my running pace and not go out to hard. My first mile was 5:30, not exactly “settling” in, although it was mostly downhill. I finally settled into my running rhythm and was clipping off 6:15 to 6:20 miles for the first 13 miles. I went through the ½ in 1:23. I was now only a few minutes behind 2nd and closing fast. I still felt I was holding myself back. I thought at this point that at around mile 16 I would have to start pushing the pace and then the last 2-3 miles I would just try and hang on. Just as I was thinking this my quads started to cramp. I had to really push just to try and keep 6:30 pace. My goal was to try and run 6:30 pace and run a sub 2:50 marathon. By mile 19 I had nothing left and was just trying to put one foot in front of the other. I had switched from trying to catch 2nd, into survival mode. I caught Matt Lieto on the large hill by the ski jumps, around mile 22. I kept pushing hoping that I would see Jason Shortis who was running in 3rd up the road. At mile 23 I heard that I was just 1 minute behind Jason, but I still could not see him. My coach and family yelled at me mile 24, but I was to tired to acknowledge them. All I could think about was the end! My other goal was to go under 9:00 hours. When I got to mile 25 my watch read 8:51. I knew at this point I was probably running 7:30 pace adding 90 seconds for the .2 miles to make 26.2 miles put me exactly at 9:00. So I had no time to spare. I entered the stadium and my watch read 8:59:20. I couldn’t see the finish and wasn’t sure how far around the skating oval I had to go. When I made the last turn to see the finish, the clock read 8:59:40. I tried to “sprint” for the line and crossed just under 9 hours, 8:57:57, good for 4th place overall and the first American. My marathon time was 2:56:09 good for the 3rd fastest time in the race. I qualified for Kona, but did not take my spot for financial reason.
Overall I was happy with my race. Going out too hard on the bike really cost me tons of time at the end. The last 20 miles of the 2nd loop I was 10 minutes slower than the 1st time around. I learned a lot from this race and I should be able to take what I have learned and improve on my next Ironman. With out the help of Kurt Perham helping with pacing, nutrition and all of the other things I would have had no chance of doing well. Also a huge thanks goes out to my team US Pro Tri and all of the sponsors, Jamis bike, Newton running shoes, Zone nutrition, Hed wheels and all of the other sponsors (see www.USProTri.com ) for providing me with training and racing equipment. And most importantly to my wife and family for the support in pursing my hobby!